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Technology & Entrepreneurship

UTSA Honors Professors For Work In Merging Commerce, Innovation

Courtesy photo
University Texas San Antonio

The University of Texas San Antonio held its fifth annual Innovation Awards Wednesday. The 34 awards celebrated professors who have received patents and revenue from their research, the director of the Commercialization and Technology Transfer Office Christine Burke said.

“We’re really trying to celebrate professors who get out of the building,” said Burke, who described their efforts to pair professors with potential customers in industry.

Commercializing research at UTSA through patents, licensing, and startups are a focus of the university. UTSA participates in the National Science Foundation’s I-Corps program, where grantees learn about the product opportunities through their research. According to Burke, UTSA has risen to the top 10 percent of the 239 universities participating.

“This has been a banner or breakout year for us,” Burke said.

Through technology transfer programs, universities can protect intellectual property created by their professors, and assist them or third-parties in creating products. Universities then earn revenue from licenses and are increasingly taking advantage of these programs, according to research by the Association of University Technology Managers.

UTSA has an effective pipeline of technology and startups, according to the director of the UTSA’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship Cory Hallam. But that isn’t the main focus for UTSA.

“It can be a source of revenue,” Hallam said. “But, like I said, it impacts the quality of education we deliver, it impacts the recognition for the faculty and research labs, and it impacts our ability to work closer with industry.”

UTSA professor of mechanical engineering Bing Dong was named innovator of the year. He recently began a project with CPS energy worth more than $350,000 to create smart building systems that better evaluate energy needs and usage.

Academia and industry go hand in hand said Dong, who added that the role of professors has evolved the past 20 years.

“The university professor is not only sitting in an office solving the math problem,” Dong said. “They are called to understand industry problems better, collaborate and create solutions.”

Paul Flahive can be reached at paul@tpr.org or on Twitter @paulflahive